Members of the Joint Task Force-National Capital Region (JTF-NCR) recently tested their contingency response plans and procedures during the command’s annual Capital Shield training exercise. More than 200 members of JTF-NCR and interagency organizations participated in the nearly month-long exercise conducted September 7-24.
“JTF-NCR remains ready to perform a wide spectrum of operations in support of civil authorities to safeguard the nation’s capital,” said JTF-NCR commanding general, Maj. Gen. Allan M. Pepin. “The command routinely conducts exercises like Capital Shield in cooperation with our joint and interagency partners to maintain our ability to operate and succeed together in the complex environment of the National Capital Region.”
Like previous years, Capital Shield 21 brought together emergency responders and planners from dozens of local, state and national agencies to align their various disaster response plans and discuss ways to improve their respective contingency response processes.
For Col. William (Bill) Coryell, JTF-NCR’s readiness division chief, Capital Shield 21 required a steady progression of meetings with planners from across the region.
“It takes an extraordinary amount of detailed planning to execute an exercise the size and scope of Capital Shield,” Coryell explained. “The exercise team spent at least six months working with our subordinate units, interagency partners, and the JTF-NCR staff to provide the team a quality experience.”
Disaster response readiness in the National Capital Region is complex in nature and requires tremendous coordination across multiple agencies and organizations. For three days during Capital Shield 21, more than 50 leaders from across the Department of Defense, various federal government agencies and local emergency response organizations such as the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services and Arlington County Police Department met at Conmy Hall on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall to participate in what is called a “tabletop exercise.”
This portion of Capital Shield 21 included discussions about how to improve partnership and interoperability between the organizations, which are crucial when a major disaster impacts the region. JTF-NCR deputy commander, Egon Hawrylak, was instrumental in inviting emergency planning experts to serve as moderators and the primary presenters for the event.
"As we began planning for Capital Shield and established the scenarios, it was important to have facilitators who had real world experiences in disaster response issues, " shared Hawrylak. "We were fortunate to have Chief Jim Schwartz, the Incident Commander for the 9/11 Pentagon attack, and Mr. Bob Quinn, former FBI Critical Incident Response Group Crisis Management Specialist, lead our discussion and share their important lessons learned during our tabletop exercise."
While many aspects of the exercise took place virtually, some of the outdoor segments were accomplished in person. One of the most notable in-person portions of Capital Shield 21 involved the mobile command posts from six different organizations. During this portion of the exercise, each of the response teams’ respective mobile command vehicles demonstrated their equipment’s capabilities during contingency operations.
“This is the first time that the JTF-NCR has hosted something like this,” relayed Capt. Andrew Rekieta, the Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (C4) Planner at JTF-NCR. “It provided an amazing opportunity for discussion between the different organizations and provided testing on communication bridging capabilities that some of the organizations had never used before.”
“The National Capital Region is complex, and the exercise is JTF-NCR’s contribution to ensure the entire region is prepared to respond to an extraordinary emergency,” said Coryell. “Experiences like this are mutually beneficial for our command and our joint and interagency partners by helping us to evaluate procedures and strengthen relationships.”